American Street

American Street

by

Ibi Zoboi

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on American Street can help.

American Street: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next Friday, Fabiola packs a small bag for Manman. She tells Chantal it’s been too long and asks how to get to New Jersey. With a sigh, Chantal says that it’s a 15-hour bus ride and calls Fabiola hardheaded. Fabiola asks Chantal if she’s hardheaded too, and Chantal says a few years ago, she left for six days to find her father’s killer. After school that day, Pri won’t leave Fabiola alone. Pri says that bad things happen to girls who get snatched off buses, but Fabiola retorts that Manman is in a prison and that she has to help her. After giving Fabiola a long look, Pri tells her to wait for a few minutes.
Chantal wants Fabiola to understand that she is hardheaded—she, like Fabiola, is willing to do anything to get justice for her family. Meanwhile, Fabiola’s choice to plan a trip to New Jersey speaks to how desperate she is to get Manman back. Already, the desperation that’s so common among people in Detroit seems to have gotten to her. She is now willing to stand up to her cousins and do what she believes is right.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
When Pri walks over to some other girls, Fabiola knows she’s not the Fourth Bee. She decides to head back to the CVS. In the hair aisle, the woman from last week approaches Fabiola to ask about the school. The woman has on a brown coat and nice boots; Manman always said to judge people by their shoes. Fabiola turns to walk away, but the woman asks if Fabiola is Donna’s cousin. She says that she knows Pri, Chantal, and Matant Jo, and that she knows Phillip was killed. Fabiola decides to trust the woman, since she knows this part of her family history. The woman takes Fabiola to a nearby Mexican restaurant and tells Fabiola to order whatever she wants.
To Fabiola, Pri walking away to join her own friends is proof that Fabiola doesn’t belong—if Fabiola did belong, Pri would’ve invited her to come along. Loneliness and independence aren’t a good thing—readers may remember Bad Leg’s warning to beware a woman in brown. But Fabiola chooses to trust this woman because her cousins have made it seem like Phillip’s murder should be a secret—so anyone who knows about it seems trustworthy.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
The woman introduces herself as Detective Shawna Stevens of the Grosse Pointe Park Police Department. Fabiola prepares to leave, but Detective Stevens says she needs help—and in return, she can help Fabiola get Manman. At first, Fabiola smiles. Then, she remembers that Papa Legba can lead people through labyrinths before opening doors, so she asks what the detective wants. Detective Stevens pulls out a newspaper: the headline is about the girl who died after taking designer drugs, and Detective Stevens says that she’s investigating the girl’s death. Fabiola insists she doesn’t know anything, but Detective Stevens says that they’re after Dray—he’s selling these drugs, but they don’t have proof. Fabiola points out that this is Detective Stevens’s job, but Detective Stevens says that she needs help from American citizens like Fabiola.
Detective Stevens is a skilled manipulator and knows just how to reel Fabiola in: calling on Fabiola’s “duties” as an American citizen and offering to help with Manman. This makes Fabiola feel more beholden to the detective, as Fabiola wants nothing more than to be properly American. It doesn’t hurt that Detective Stevens wants to arrest Dray, since Fabiola hates Dray anyway. This means that Fabiola has all the more reason to cooperate with the detective, as putting Dray behind bars would free Donna from Dray’s abuse, at least temporarily.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Detective Stevens point out that Manman isn’t a citizen, and that the last time she was in the U.S., she overstayed her visa. But if Fabiola helps with this investigation, they can get Manman a green card. Fabiola is still suspicious, so she asks what this will cost. Detective Stevens assures her that she just needs information on Dray, like when he’s going to be at a party next. She gives Fabiola a business card and leaves a $20 bill on the table for Fabiola. Fabiola leaves the money but takes the card. Outside the restaurant, a car honks behind Fabiola. It’s Kasim. He asks why she’s still here and opens the passenger door for her. Kasim tell her that Pri is downtown, making sure Fabiola didn’t get on a bus to New Jersey, so Fabiola gets in.
While the novel doesn’t go into much detail about the bureaucracy or intricacies of the U.S. immigration system, Detective Stevens’s proposal suggests that the system may be rife with corruption and bribery. It might not be as impartial or helpful as prospective immigrants hope—and it may be inaccessible to those who don’t have connections to someone like Detective Stevens. The system, in other words, is fundamentally inequitable and is hard to navigate without help.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Trauma, Violence, and Desperation Theme Icon
Get the entire American Street LitChart as a printable PDF.
American Street PDF
Kasim moves some junk out of the way and apologizes, explaining that not everyone can be a “baller” like Dray and Matant Jo. He calls Fabiola Fabulous and then calls Pri on his cell phone. He hands the phone to Fabiola, but she hands it back after listening to Pri shout for a minute. Kasim invites Fabiola to get dinner but then offers to take her home when she’s silent. Fabiola says that she’d love to eat. When Kasim suggests Middle Eastern food, Fabiola says that she loved her Syrian friends’ food back in Haiti. As Kasim fights with his broken radio, he tells Fabiola that he’s saving to buy a condo or a house instead of a BMW. He works at a café and suggests that Fabiola come visit him there sometime. Fabiola smiles and thinks that Detroit is more beautiful than ever.
Kasim presents a version of the American Dream that will no doubt appeal to Fabiola. He’s willing to make sacrifices in the short term—such as driving an unreliable car—in order to save for bigger, better things like a house. And, importantly, he’s working an honest job to earn the money. Given that Fabiola’s greatest desire was for Manman to find honest work in Detroit, Kasim’s story likely inspires her. He makes the case that dreams are possible and can come true, if only one is willing to work for them.
Themes
Dignity and the American Dream Theme Icon
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Even though Fabiola is happy, she thinks about how Manman is still in New Jersey, and how Detective Stevens asked for something impossible. Kasim’s cellphone rings: it’s Dray. Fabiola wonders if it’s true about Dray’s dealing drugs. Hanging up with Dray, Kasim tells Fabiola that he can’t go out tonight. But then, seeing Fabiola’s face, Kasim calls Dray back and says that he can’t back out on Fabiola. Fabiola grins bigger than she has in a while, though she can’t understand how she can be happy with Manman in jail. When Kasim parks in front of the Bucharest Grill, he runs around to open the door for Fabiola. In Haiti, Fabiola had only been to a restaurant once. Now, she’s been to a restaurant twice in one day. She feels like she’s living up to her new name, Fabulous.
Even as things start to look up for Fabiola in terms of her budding relationship with Kasim, the fact remains that Manman is still in the detention facility. In other words, Fabiola feels like her loyalty is being pulled in multiple directions as she starts to make a life for herself in Detroit. But, nevertheless, accepting Kasim’s new name for her shows that Fabiola is starting to feel more at home in Detroit and is stepping into a new identity as she feels more and more American.
Themes
Family and Loyalty Theme Icon
Identity and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon